Devils still perfect after Kovalchuk's winner

NEWARK, N.J. -- Capitals coach and former Devils assistant Adam Oates was trying to find the silver lining in his team’s overtime loss until Ilya Kovalchuk’s sharp-angle game winner was brought up.

At that, Oates rolled his eyes:

“Seen that before. I used to like it.”

Pete DeBoer had no complaints. When asked how he felt about the shot selection, DeBoer gave Kovalchuk a free pass.

“Depends who it is,” he said. “If it’s on Kovy’s stick, that angle’s fine.”

Kovalchuk’s quick-fire wrister beat Capitals goaltender Michal Neuvirth with less than 21 seconds to play in overtime and lifted the Devils to an impressive 3-0-0 record to begin the 2013 lockout-shortened season.

After a surprising trip to the Stanley Cup finals last season, the Devils are once again surpassing expectations as they established themselves as the only unbeaten team in the East.

“Some teams are struggling a little bit and some teams are doing well,” said Kovalchuk, who tallied his second goal of the season. “I think it helps that we played ‘til mid-June last year and all the core guys stayed the same. And the coach, we know exactly what he wants from us. I think it’s to our advantage.”

The core guys are not entirely the same, of course -- Zach Parise is now playing for his hometown Minnesota Wild after signing a monster contract this summer -- but the core players that remain have been pulling together.

Kovalchuk added another game winner. Martin Brodeur was terrific in goal to collect his third straight win. And veterans like Patrik Elias and Marek Zidlicky are producing, chipping in Friday night with two points apiece.

“How hard our veteran players worked during the offseason, extended offseason, has really led to the start we’ve had,” DeBoer said. “Elias is in great shape, Brodeur is in great shape, Zubrus is in great shape, Kovy is in great shape. That helps.”

The Devils will aim to preserve their perfect record Sunday when they travel to Montreal to begin their first extended road trip of the season.

“I saw somewhere that every two points is worth 3.42 or something like that based on an 82-game schedule,” DeBoer said. “So every win we get, every point we bank is critical here.”